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The Scottish Nation

KENNEDY, a surname, conjectured by some to be derived from Ken, or can (Gaelic Caen) a head, with the affix “edy,” and signifying together head of the family. The ancestor of the noble Ayrshire family of Cassillis, (now Ailsa) in the 13th century, was Roland de Carrick, chief of his name, and his great-grandson, Sir John Kennedy of Dunure, was the first to assume that surname, instead of Carrick. (See CASSILLIS, earl of.)

      Nisbet (System of Heraldry, vol. i. p. 161) is of opinion that the Kennedys had an Irish origin, and that they sprung from the old thanes of Garrick, long before the Bruces held the title of earl thereof. In the eighth century, Kennedy, father of Brian Boru, was prince of Connaught, and in 850, Kennethe was thane of Carrick. In that district and in Galloway, where the Kennedys had, at one time, extensive possessions, the surname Kennedy is to this day pronounced Kennettie.

      The surname, however, is more likely to be derived from the Saxon than the Gaelic, there being the words Kennen, to throw, and Konig, king, in the German language, as well as numerous Saxon names beginning with Ken, such as Kenulf, Kenelm, Kenned, &c. The name Kenneth, the probable root of Kennedy, is purely Gothic, and the same as Kinaf, that of one of the founders of the Russian empire, th in Russian being pronounced f. [Pinkerton’s Enquiry, vol. ii. p. 158.]

      Some affirm that the first of this surname who settled in Carrick, which then formed a portion of Galloway, was a second son of Maclean of the Isles, but there is no other ground for this supposition than that, like the Macleans, the Kennedys carry three crosslets in their armorial bearings. It is probable that they were introduced into Ayrshire in 836 by Kenneth Macalpine, who united the Picts and the Scots into one people. In the reign of William the Lion, Henry Kennedy assisted Gilbert, eldest son of Fergus, lord of Galloway, in his wars both against that monarch, and his own brother Uchtred. This Fergus was the direct ancestor, in the third degree, of Marjory, countess of Carrick, the mother of Robert the Bruce. In the Ragman Roll, among those who swore allegiance to Edward I. in 1296, are several of the name of Kennedy.


      Of this surname there are several ancient families. The Kennedys of Knocknalling, Ayrshire, are in possession of title deeds, the dates of which range back as far as 1476.

      The family of Kennedy of Knockgray, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, is descended from the Rev. Alexander Kennedy, born in 1663, who acquired that estate. He was minister of Straiton, Ayrshire, and chaplain to the seventh earl of Cassillis, at whose funeral he officiated in 1701, when he is said to have exorcised the devil, who had settled on the coffin in the shape of a black crow! His great-great-granddaughter, Anne, married, 10th September 1781, John-Clark, Esq. of Nunland, also in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and their eldest son, Colonel Alexander Clark Kennedy, succeeded, in 1835, to the estate of Knockgray. An honourable augmentation was granted to his arms, in commemoration of his having, when in command of the centre squadron of the Royal dragoons at the battle of Waterloo, captured the eagle and colours of the 105th regiment of French infantry with his own hand.

KENNEDY, JAMES, a learned and munificent prelate of the Roman Catholic church, and founder of the college of St. Salvator, at St. Andrews, was the younger son of James Kennedy of Dunure, by his wife, the countess of Angus, daughter of Robert III., and was born about 1405 or 1406. Entering into holy orders, he was, in 1437, preferred by his uncle, James I., to the see of Dunkeld, with which he held in commendam the abbey of Scone. One the death of Bishop Wardlaw, in April 1440, he was advanced to the diocese of St. Andrews. In 1444 he was constituted lord high chancellor, an office which he resigned in a few weeks. He was intrusted with the charge and education of James III., and during that prince’s minority, he acted as one of the lords of the regency, when, such was his acknowledged wisdom, prudence, and integrity, that the chief management of public affairs devolved upon him. He died May 10, 1466 and was interred in the collegiate church of St. Andrews, in the precincts of St. Salvator, which college he founded in 1456, and liberally endowed for the maintenance of a provost, four regents, and eight poor scholars or bursars. He is said to have written some political advices, entitled ‘Monita Politica,’ and a ‘History of his Own Times,’ both of which are supposed to be lost.

KENNEDY, WALTER, a poet of the sixteenth century, styled by Douglas ‘The Greit Kennedy,’ is principally known by his ‘Flyting’ with his brother bard Dunbar, and by two short pieces, the one entitle ‘Invective against Mouth-Thankless,’ contained in the Evergreen, and the other, ‘Prais of Age,’ published, with a high commendatory opinion, by Lord Hailes. All his other poems have, unfortunately, perished. He was a native of the district of Carrick, and belonged to the ecclesiastical order. Dunbar, in his ‘Lament for the Death of the Makkaris,’ mentions him to have been on his death-bed at the time that poem was written. It is probable he died soon after.

KENNEDY, JOHN, M.D., a physician and antiquary of some repute in his day, was a native of Scotland, but very little is known of his personal history. He resided some years in Smyrna, and was a great collector of antiquities, particularly coins, which were sold by auction after his death. He wrote a ‘dissertation on the Coins of Carausius,’ of which 256 were in his own possession. In this publication, which appeared in 1756, he maintained that Oriuna was that emperor’s guardian goddess, which led to a foolish controversy with Dr. Stukeley, who affirmed that she was his wife. Dr. Kennedy died in 1760.

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